Saturday, March 29, 2008

3/29/08 The game

I took Julian and Katrina to the Y this morning so I could go to a class. Afterward, when I went to pick up Katrina, I saw her playing with an Exersaucer, and screeching and shoving aside another little girl who was also interested in the toy. The Childwatch ladies took Katrina's adamence seriously, and they were gently advising the other little girl to wait her turn. "Nah!" I intervened, "she always does that!" I can see how others would take her almost aggressive behavior to mean that a toy means a great deal to her, when I know she's just used to standing her ground against her brothers. Then the Childwatch lady showed me a little push-bike toy and said, "she play with this the whole time!" Figures.

Later tonight, after a smashingly successful dinner outing to Midori, I was sitting on the floor playing with Katrina, the game where she "hides" behind me and is delighted when I "can't find" her. Julian butts in a lot, to my irritation, since it's so rare that I get to play with her like that, and she was being really adorable. She kept coming to me for hugs, and though she still doesn't hug back, she got into giggle fits when I made mouth-farts on her neck.

Anyway, one time, Julian fabricated some injury, so I humored him by giving him a long hug and playing with him too. Julian DOES know how to hug, so we were enjoying this embrace, when Katrina stalked over, screeching. She pushed Julian away, then scolded him with her pointed, "bah! bah!" and then went on her way again. What a little brat!

It's very rare that any of the kids compete for our attention, but tonight I got it from both: Julian trying to butt in on a baby game, and Katrina shoving him aside when he did. I can't help but to be a little happy that they're fighting over me!

And I'm even happier that Katrina has been nothing short of delightful lately: full of adorable sounds, playing happily, much more tolerant of setbacks, laughing a lot, making up games with Julian -- all the wonderful things about a toddler. I'd forgotten how much fun they can be!


Friday, March 28, 2008

3/28/08 Three's a charm

I've been a single mom all week, which means, at the very least, that I've put all three to bed myself every night. When Dave's here, he does most of the bed-timing.

Tonight, as Dave does, I sat Katrina on the little potty before her bath and gave her a book. This, she's used to: "boo? boo?"

But tonight, something was different. She kept getting up and looking back into the little potty, then saying "yay bee!" prematurely, then I'd sit her back down, "boo? boo?", read a page, get up, look again. After about the 6th time, she looked ahead in concentration, and I thought, "If I didn't know better, I'd think...." Then she actually bounced up and down a little, as if to shake it off, and sure enough! She produced! She got up and looked right away, and there was her reward in the potty. She also anticipated the routine of walking over to the toilet, pouring it in, and flushing, all the while with me singing praises, clapping, and making a HUGE deal of it. And it was -- this was the 3rd night in a row, and she clearly has made some connections. Yay bee!

It'll be ironic if Gabriel is the first and last one we toilet-train. If Katrina is anything like my niece (who was completely done by 22 months, a rarity these days), then there's actually a chance of that.

Gabriel's strong personality may be an impediment to night-training, but it's an asset in piano-playing. This afternoon, I left work "early"...wait, I must explain. 2:30 is early for normal people, but horribly late for someone who got up at 6:45am, been at the most boring job for 6 solid hours, freezing to death in an office, and counting the minutes to get home to take a nap. On the way home, I realized I'd have just enough time to surprise Gabriel outside his classroom, so I picked him up right from school. His shout of joy at seeing me made me happy and guilty all at the same time! At home, I made him a snack, then he played the piano and with Legos for the rest of the afternoon.

A few times, I had to go in to see if he was playing a pre-programmed song, or if he was just playing on his own. Sometimes he plays along with a preprogrammed song. Then I heard him playing Wheels On The Bus, which he figured out on his own, but he moved between several different keys, transposing it easily. I tried to get him to do this for the camera, with mixed results; it's hard to get him to do it in short chunks. When I asked him to play it in a different key, sometimes he'd just play it in a different octave, and he completely understood when I said, "Noooo, that's just a different octave!" even though I don't think he knows the word yet.

So, a few videos. I really tried to keep them short, with varying success; at least the interesting parts are in the beginning.

The Muffin Man, in two keys.

The 12-bar blues.

A "little tune" he insisted I record.

He really needs to progress beyond hunt-and-peck fingering though!

Julian's been abandoned by his brother lately thanks to the piano, but he has another sibling to take up the slack. I remember now that Julian was about 18 months old when the boys really started interacting, and I'm seeing much more sophisticated interaction between the younger two now.

Tonight, this involved Julian "reading" Katrina the Jungle Boogie book, and acting out the shaky-shake bear, to Katrina's puzzlement.

After Katrina's bath, I tried to get some photos of her with her beloved blankie, a satin pillow cover that she chews on for comfort and sleep. Dr. Sears would call this a "lovey," though fortunately this "lovey" is hardly unique: it's $3.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond, so we have a few.

This is the sort of thing I like to do a scrapbook page about, especially since Katrina has an irresistable new name for it: her "mimi." I did get my scrapbook page shot, but I think I almost prefer these outtakes of her happily playing peek-a-boo with her "mimi" on Julian's quilt.

Maybe I'm just not at the right job....I do like working, but I also really really liked picking Gabriel up from school today (maybe because it was optional?), and hanging out with him at home this afternoon. Julian smothering me with his magnificent kisses after his bath almost got me choked up. And Katrina's vastly improved attitude goes a long way toward me missing home too...and really missing her.

One person I don't need to miss anymore: Dave is coming back from Dallas tonight!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

3/27/08 The setback

Last night I was up until 3am (!) -- I haven't done that in years! An old friend was visiting, we got talking, a bottle of port was sacrificed, and the next thing we knew, we were in the wee hours.

And I do mean wee hours. I hadn't woken Julian up yet, so went into the boys' room after 3am. Julian was either already awake or woke up immediately, and said, "I'm wet!" Not just him, but his blanket and pee pad and everything too. So, a little early-morning laundry, a change into emergency PJs, and back to bed he went.

But at 7am when I woke him, he was wet again! Not sure what the deal is. Of course, setbacks are to be expected. He's still leagues ahead of his stubborn brother.

Katrina had a great time tonight with her brothers' Autoblox cars. It was a little shocking, almost, to see her lying on the floor looking at the wheels, as Gabriel did that all the time when he was her age.

I gave her a bowl and a spoon to practice feeding herself tonight. She practiced all right, but spoon? Who needs a spoon?

I got my whole brood off to school early this morning again, with Julian opening Kids Inc at 7:30am. Thank goodness Melissa kindly brought Katrina home for me after Julian's ice skating class. I'm really growing to hate the driving.

Julian almost didn't go skating today, claiming he didn't want to skate, and that he'd just watch me. I humored him until he was dressed and skated up, then pretended he'd never said anything. And he did great! I'm so proud of him, he's more and more comfortable in his class. He's not the bravest or the most coordinated, but once he forgets about skating and just has fun instead, he really comes into his own. I'd like to continue skating with him next session; I just hope his whining on the way there today was an aberration.

My whining, on the other hand, is never an aberration. I'm not completely sure, but this low-grade headache and malaise I've had all day has all the earmarks of a hangover! urggh!


3/26/06 The Hug

Julian and Katrina have been playing a lot together lately. Julian is really very sweet with her, and more and more she's accepting of his play and knows games they have together.

Tonight I suggested she give him a hug, and she did!!! Oh my gosh, the "awww" factor....! Where was my camera?!!

A tickle would have to do. Here they are, Julian trying to get a hug, getting a tickle instead, then resoundly rejected.

(What's with wrapping strings around her neck, anyway? It's really unnerving!)

I'm happy to say this is the face I've been seeing a lot more on her. Yay!

Believe it or not, I pulled out of the driveway this morning with all 3 in the car at 7:20am -- with Katrina even dressed -- and got to work at 8:15am. Lots of planning the night before, lots of preparing boys, lots of being very efficient. Taking it to the next level, it seems. Single moms, hats off to you! Whew!


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

3/25/08 The Explosion

There are moments in a toddler's life when from one moment to the next, you almost don't recognize them by behavior. Since when could she do that? Katrina is exploding with new words, new actions, new forms of understanding.

Tonight I was sitting in the dining room talking with Gabriel, and I told him to put away his knapsack after he was done with his cookies. I had to say it several times for him to acknowledge it, then moved on to something else. To my amazement, moments later, in tottered Katrina, carrying the knapsack, and she handed it to Gabriel! "Bah?" Her sincerity was so cute and endearing I was about to explode myself.

She's also "saying" a lot more, mostly one-word utterances...or rather, one "phoneme" utterances, never finishing the sound, always in a questioning tone, such as "buh?" for brush, or "boo?" for book, or "see?" for sit. But now there are more attempts to say something than I can count.

She "went" in the little potty again tonight too. I still don't think she gets that she did it, but she knows enough to look in there now. Then she says "yay bee!" which means "yay baby!" It's funny that I'm praising one for going, and another for not going! (Julian's been doing pretty well; slightly damp 2-3 mornings a week.)

I have to surmise that the end (or break from?) a long period of grouchiness and irritability, and this new explosion of learning, are related. Either that or she knows she's coming up on 18 months -- the Golden Age! The flip side of toddlers -- they can be so unbelievably adorable.

I went to see a physiatrist -- a sports medicine doctor who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation -- about my ongoing foot troubles. Since the Big Bunny Fun Run, and a short goof-around dance in the living room yesterday, my feet and ankles have been bothering me constantly, but the sensations shift around so much, I don't know what to make of it. The areas under both outer anklebones start buzzing if I sit for too long, and just lying down, I'll get random sharp pains across an anklebone. I can't make it start, and I can't make it go away. It's very odd!

I wasn't expecting any instant answers, and I didn't get any. I liked the doctor, she really listened and understood (also a runner with 3 young children), and did a thorough job probing me -- both my history and body. None of the initial tests she did indicated any obvious nerve problems, though she scheduled me for a thorough nerve test in April. The only thing that troubles me is the heavy emphasis on prescription drugs -- antidepressants, narcotics -- for pain management. In fact, once she heard I have migraines, Topamax was the answer, partly in case what I have is a nerve thing, but bonus, maybe it'll help migraines too. But I don't live in so much pain that I can't function, and I'm very reluctant to resort to daily drugs that could bring with them more problems than solutions. Prescription drugs are nasty, nasty stuff: powerful, addictive -- yet easily available, often paid for by insurance companies, and without the stigma of illegal drugs. I can't believe there's such a stew about medical marijuana when legal painkillers are way more dangerous.

Dave left for a business trip to Austin this morning, so I'm single mom for the week. I'm taking a painkiller for that now: chocolate chips.


Monday, March 24, 2008

3/24/08 The Explanation

A conversation between Gabriel and Julian in the car on the way home, about Miss Cassie, who is the director of Julian's school:

Gabriel: "Who is Miss Cassie, anyway?"
Julian: "She's my Prince!"
Gabriel (puzzled): "Are you married to her?"
Julian: "No, I recognize her!"

Somehow, this made sense to them, in the private language of brothers.

Later, I was talking to them about visiting family back East in July, and ran through the names of relatives: "...Aunt Stephanie, Uncle Andreas, Uncle Ronan, Bonne Maman, Papa Paul..." and Julian cut in: "Oh, Papa Paul! I love Papa Paul!" Lucky kid has 3 grandfathers, but he knows the one he's not related to the best.

Life is night and day when Katrina is in a good mood, starting with walking in the door, setting her down and she doesn't cry. Just that by itself is a huge relief. Tonight she walked right off to find something to play with, giving me a crucial few minutes to form a dinner plan and get her dinner ready. I still had trouble feeding her tonight -- but not because she was so fussy and impossible, but because she was laughing so much. After dinner, she toddled around happily, bursting into a room playing private little game, giggling. She was funny and delightful and playful and only screeched once or twice.

What happened? What baby exorcist secretly descended on us and vanquished the demon? I can't believe how vastly different the day is when she's happy! It's frightening how much power toddlers have over the entire household.

Gabriel got another "report card" this week. Not so good this time. His teacher's comments:
Gabriel meets or exceeds grade level standards in all areas. He is more focused and completes his work quickly. His behavior, however, changed this trimester with teasing of his peers and not following classroom/playground rules (as discussed). He needs to work on improving these areas.
Dave showed Gabriel a standard blues chord progression called 12-bar blues on the piano, and now Gabriel's practicing it himself from memory. He spends at least half of his free time at home (which isn't much, I'm guilty and sorry to say) at the piano these days. We were driving along De Anza Blvd last weekend, and he saw a sign that said "Piano" (for a piano store), and he cried out "PIANO!!!!" with such tremendous excitement I just about jumped out of my skin, reminding us again how much he wants lessons. I've really got to find some. If he's going to get kicked out of school for bad behavior, he might as well have something to fall back on!


Sunday, March 23, 2008

3/23/08 Easter Sunday

Easter today! We haven't really been Easter-celebrators, and in fact it didn't even occur to me to get the boys Easter baskets. It's not like they need more candy though, especially since we accepted a gracious invitation from the White family for an Easter brunch and egg hunt.

It also occurred to me this morning that I have nothing dressy for the boys at all. Not even non-jeans for pants!

The kids got right down to business, with Gina designating who got to ride the tricycle next via "Eeny Meeny Miny Mo." Julian only got a turn because I intervened, something I rarely do, but it's one thing for Gabriel to push his brother around in their own games, but not someone else's.

Of course, it was all over once Katrina caught sight of the tricycle.

Katrina was in fine form, happy as long as things were going her way, but increasingly demanding and screechy if things didn't. We were well into her naptime, so that explains some of it, but she wasn't much better after her nap at home. Dave and I both really had enough of her this weekend. We had lots of really fun cute times with her, but it takes 10 minutes of those to make up for 10 seconds of screeching, and the balance wasn't in our favor.

Incredibly, we got all 7 kids together for a pre-egg-hunt photo-op. I love how baby Declan is looking up at his second-cousins, like "whaaat?"

Good food, company, family -- exactly what holidays should be about.

And not headaches. I didn't think I had a headache today, but I keep feeling familiar signs of them. So I took a short nap this afternoon to fend it off.

And was tormented by a terrifying dream of driving and not being able to see, there was too much fog and rain and things being kicked up onto the windshield. I knew I was on the side of the road and was stricken with fear about running off a cliff and was still moving and couldn't think and didn't know what to do. I couldn't cope, couldn't overcome the overwhelming weight to pull my thoughts together as I careened into the fog. It felt like my life was over and I was just waiting for the inevitable crash that would take it.

I was rattled for hours after I woke up. It was so hard to shake off the sense of my world ending, and to believe that indeed I do have a future, and that my life is sunny and clear and colorful and filled with vibrant children. I'm not a depressive sort of person, but that sort of experience almost feels like I'm taking my first steps into a life of mental illness and rounds of drugs. Or is this all migraine-related? Or just plain old Freudian psychological fear and empathy for how my father must feel sometimes?

So going on a letterbox excursion at prime-dinner-making-time was essential.

I'd wanted to squeeze in a local letterbox somehow this weekend but now, some joyful utterly pure time with my boys was truly called for. Dave took Katrina to the supermarket (thank heavens for me, too bad for him, 'cause she was a pain there too), and the boys happily piled into the car for a little adventure.

One of the great things about letterboxing continues to escape us, which is finding new places to visit, because once again we went to a well-known familiar park: the BMX park! This letterbox had a fun clue, that included counting pavement squares, climbing a little down an embankment, and then pulling rocks aside to find it.

After we exchanged stamps, the boys played a little in the dry creekbed.

I felt a lot better, grounded and in touch with what's truly important to me. The boys' simple joy at being outside and hunting for something and watching the BMXers and running together and laughing made me happy and joyful too. And very sorry I'd worn slip-on shoes and couldn't chase after them!

When we got home, they even cleaned up the family room without much trouble. I set about making dinner, and my life was back to normal, which included instant blood pressure elevation once Katrina was back on the scene. I had some nice time playing with her before bedtime, but one just never knows what's going to set her off. I was all too happy to put her to bed.

In other news, we forgot to get Julian up last night to go to the bathroom. This morning, he was a little wet -- so little that he just wore his damp pajamas all morning until we realized it and insisted he get dressed. Two or three other mornings, he's been a little damp like this too, but that was with waking him up. He wasn't any wetter today without us waking him up. So I guess that's a little progress. This for sure though: he's done with night-time Pull-Ups.

Thank you to the White family for having us today (and our apologies to the city of Saratoga for Katrina's screeching), and to the Ryders for turning us on to the fabulously fun outlet of letterboxing!